Monday, May 14, 2012

That Harsh and Gentle Ride

Greetings, my long lost, but not forgotten, lizardy noise wall friends

Sunday, hot May day: I was riding a straight line down an open road with fresh asphalt and no traffic at a moderately high pace. I pulled an arc out to the left and back onto line to feel the flow. Not a sudden, quick turn, but not a gentle one either, an arc where I could feel the speed and agility of my machine in a smooth turn out and back, one with some lean and enough delta-y to give the tires a little something to think about.

Riding for about 15 miles at about 75 or 80% up to that moment, I felt the heat of the day and the dryness of the air. Two water bottles already down, I made a side trip to a cold drinking fountain I know of, and found it in good working order: push the button, let the hot standing water out, followed by cool, refreshing flow to gulp, and then refill the bottle. Pour some down the back of the shirt for evaporative cooling.

This is my ride down the middle between harsh and gentle, between pushing too hard and going too easy, between staying cool and overheating, spinning away on my fixed gear machine. I'm still not acclimated to the heat, still feel the dessication as a little more discomfort than I wish, still feel the hot air going in and out of my lungs in not the best form that I can achieve, but it looks like this week will be a good training ground, with commutes home hitting 109°F before Friday. Better wear shorts, I guess.

I love to ride, and am a member of the small but dedicated band of bicycle commuters who keep doing it in Phoenix during the summer. For people who say it's too hard, or dangerous, or inconvenient, and so on, I just repeat: I love it. I have to feel the air moving around me, my legs pushing my feet in circles, and that bicycle feeling of arc-flow I mentioned above. I keep doing it primarily because of that, but I guess there is also a part of me that enjoys pushing people's preconceptions just a little bit. Cycling is not dangerous, or hard. It's fun, nearly all the time.    

The path is almost ready to attract a new set of cyclists back to its separate,confidence-inspiring setting

The human mind tends to be fickle, and seeks reinforcement for its emotional responses and prejudices in the flimsiest and most fleeting types of evidence. In seeking reinforcement for the notion that cycling is too hard, the mind finds in a nice cycling path that has been closed down for nearly a year reinforcement of the foregone conclusion. 

Just when you get used to riding it, just as the positive habit forms, the path is closed down for construction to increase the height of the nearby freeway noise wall. The alternative to the path is a very "As Traffic Permits" (ATP) bike lane along Pima Road which as bike lanes go is pretty good, but it's in a whole other league of high skills required to use, and low subjective safety, compared to the Pima MUP. I rode out along the lizard wall section of the Pima path in Scottsdale almost a year ago (see "When Lizards Fall"), just as construction was getting underway, and just before they closed down the path. It looks like the construction is nearly complete, which means the path should be open again soon.

Cycle path maintenance can be done in such a manner that it does not discourage cyclists. David Hembrow has extensively covered the importance of maintaining cycle paths in good repair, and of ensuring that maintenance does not prevent access to existing paths, which discourages cyclists who ride regularly by introducing doubts and unpredictability into their rides, to the point that they can be put off cycling. The familiar route is closed down, the bike goes up on the garage wall just temporarily, then years later you notice it hanging up there, and wonder how long it's been.

Some HDR photos of shade sunshine and sky along a familiar, separate path

With bougainvillea, and oleander blossoms and leaves. Glad I didn't leave it on that garage wall.

When I feel tired, continuing to move forward is the focus, not stopping, not focusing on the fading discomfort, on the harsh heat or dry air, but on the movement, the rhythm, the feel of balance and arc-flow. The stretches of fresh asphalt I rode on were sweet music to my wheels. I was wrung out when I got home, a bit dehydrated, several pounds lighter in spite of three water bottles down. But soon as I cooled down, and rehydrated, I actually wanted to go back out. I did not, not today, but I can see doubles ahead this summer. Once I feel that harsh and gentle ride rhythm, I never want it to end.


  1. I like the art.looks like a nice place to cycle.

  2. Yeah, boy, 101° F right now at my office; looking like it'll be 105°+ F for the high. Didn't ride today because of errands requiring the car, and I may not be able to ride tomorrow for the same reason.

    If I do, I'm going to have to find a different place in my briefcase/pannier for the cell phone. It usually sits in a little pocket on the back (see the pocket with the white patch: Bluetiful's rear rack.), but on the last couple of miles on the afternoon ride home last week, I noticed that when I went to retrieve it, it was REALLY warm to the touch.

    Since they're predicting highs in the 109° F for tomorrow and Wednesday, if I leave my Droid in that pocket it will be absolutely GOOEY by the end of the commute!

  3. I love the first few cycling breaths on a hot summer's day.


Please feel free to comment here, almost anything goes, except for obvious spam or blatantly illegal or objectionable material. Spammers may be subject to public ridicule, scorn, or outright shaming, and the companies represented in spam shall earn disrepute and ire for each occurrence.